CLERMONT, Fla. – The Ursinus College softball team kicked off the 2018 season with a pair of losses in sunny Florida on Sunday.
The Bears dropped a 2-1 pitcher's duel to Carthage in the opener before falling victim to an early onslaught in a 10-3 setback against Monmouth (Ill.).
Game 1: Carthage 2, Ursinus 1
Despite being outhit 6-2 in the opener, Willis' uncanny knack to wriggle out of danger kept the Bears in it until the last at-bat.
The Lady Reds jumped on top with a run in the top of the first, but the game could have been out of reach right away if not for Willis' Houdini act. Carthage's first three batters singled to load the bases with no outs, but the Ursinus ace allowed only a sacrifice fly.
In the second, Carthage filled the bags with one out before Willis induced an inning-ending double-play grounder to junior Brittany Gasser at second base.
The Bears finally got to Lady Reds starter Stephanie Guercio in the bottom of the fourth. Comfort led off with a double to the gap in right center, then came all the way around to score on a bunt by sophomore Marissa Beebe. Ursinus had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the next frame, but junior Faith Carson was left stranded after a leadoff triple.
Willis left a runner on third with one out in the sixth, punctuating the escape with a pair of strikeouts, but her magic ran out in the seventh. Jennifer Michuda opened with a single, stole second, and took third on a sacrifice bunt before Willis whiffed the next batter. That set up a two-out showdown with Vivian Juarez, who bounced a base hit through the right side to plate the go-ahead run.
Guercio retired the Bears in order in the seventh.
Willis allowed six hits in her season debut, striking out seven against just one walk over 111 pitches. Guercio struck out 10 and allowed only two hits.
Game 2: Monmouth (Ill.) 10, Ursinus 3
Ursinus raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, taking advantage of a one-out error to put runners on second and third following a single by Garritano. Carson's RBI groundout, followed by another error, plated Gasser and Garritano for an early advantage.
Things came crashing down in the bottom of the frame, as three consecutive walks allowed the Fighting Scots to get on the board. A fielder's choice evened the spread, and Monmouth pulled ahead on an Ursinus miscue. Two more bases-loaded free passes and a hit batter led to three more runs.
The Fighting Scots tacked on three more in the second, two of them on a home run. Carson drove in another run with a groundout before a solo homer by Monmouth ended the scoring.
Garritano finished 3-for-3 with two doubles and a run, while Gasser scored twice for the Bears. Willis was exceptional in a relief appearance, striking out seven and allowing just two hits and one run in 3.1 innings.
Sophomore Jennifer Hammons (0-1) took the loss after allowing six runs – only one earned – in the first. Comfort pitched a scoreless sixth in her debut on the mount.
The Bears return to the field with games against Penn State Behrend and Concordia (Ill.) on Monday.